Wednesday, June 13, 2012


A new study by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project finds that soaring prison budgets do not provide the best path to public safety. The study singles out Florida as having wasted vast sums of money destroying lives with longer prison terms than were necessary for deterrence in averting future crime. Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer wonders who did benefit from the enormous amount of prison overbuilding in Florida, which came at the expense of Florida funding for education, health and safety. 
The tragedy detailed in this report is much more than merely lost money. It represents thousands of lost lives in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Largo and Tampa Bay especially for those unfortunates incarcerated for long prison terms or mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent crimes such as fraudforged hydrocodone or oxycodone prescriptionspossession of marijuanaconspiracy and trafficking in drugs or  possession of cocaine
The report states as follows:
The nonviolent drug users in Tampa, Petersburg, Largo & Clearwater, Florida are subjected to mandatory minimum sentences
Cezanne, The Opium Smoker
...extended prison sentences came at a price: prisoners released from incarceration in 2009 cost states $23,300 per offender--or a total of over $10 billion nationwide. More than half of that amount was for non-violent offenders.

Drug offenders served 36 percent longer in 2009 than those released in 1990, while violent offenders served 37 percent longer. Time served for inmates convicted of property crimes increased by 24 percent. 
Almost all states increased length of stay over the last two decades, though that varied widely from state to state.  In Florida, for example, where time served rose most rapidly, prison terms grew by 166 percent and cost an extra $1.4 billion in 2009.
A companion analysis Pew conducted in partnership with external researchers found that many non-violent offenders in Florida, Maryland and Michigan could have served significantly shorter prison terms with little or no public safety consequences.